Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Harvest Update: 2014

~ Grapes aren't the only product being harvested!  ~
Vendemmia, 2014.  For months we waited with anticipation in hopes that Mother Nature will provide ideal conditions for harvest.  In some places, those hopes have been dashed by reports of grey skies, never ending rain,  frequent hail and occasional deluges.  Fortunately,  that is not the case everywhere. 
Over the past few weeks I've been staying in touch with various winemakers in different parts of Italy and have assembled a snapshot of where the harvest stands at the moment. 

Northern Italy

Almost since mid July,  the major winemaking regions of Piemonte and the Veneto have seen unrelenting duress in the form of torrential rains,  frequent hail and flooding.  Winemakers have reported significant reductions in yields and many vineyards have been decimated by hail storms. 
In Piemonte,  prominent producers such as Scavino and Aldo Conterno have already announced that their premium cuvees will not be produced this year.  Winemakers in Veneto have fared no better.  Last week the iconic producers Bertani and Dal Forno announced that they would not be producing their top level Amarone in 2014.  Cristian Scrinzi, winemaker for Bolla confirmed to me that the Amarone dell'Origine,  Bolla's Premium Amarone would also not be produced. 

The harvest is still underway in Barolo.  Despite the rainy summer, Isabella Oddero told me that the grapes that remained were in excellent condition; a pleasant surprise, as she said.  Last week, they completed the harvest of their Brunate and Bussia vineyards.  This week, the plan is to harvest Nebbiolo and Barbera from the Gallina vineyard.  Isabella credits the wonderful September weather - that "arrived not a moment too late" for ripening the Nebbiolo and Barbera - two notoriously late ripening varietals.

~ Nebbiolo grapes harvested from Nieve by Oddero - Harvest 2014 ~

~ Vineyards in San Gimignano ~

Central Italy

Central Italy seems to be faring better than many other parts of Italy, although even here, yields have been significantly reduced as vintners practice extensive green harvesting and severe grape selection. 
Last week, harvest began in the pre-dawn hours at Campochiarenti in San Gimignano, where near perfect Vernaccia grapes were harvested. 

~ Vernaccia at Campochiarenti:  The bespeckled golden brown color to the grapes is an indication of ideal maturation ~
Harvest continues this week at Campochiarenti who is now bringing in Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Canaiolo.  The weather has improved dramatically with sunny days and cool nights, so despite the reduced production, what is being harvested looks to be in good condition. 

~ Close up view of Vernaccia Grapes on the Vine at Campochiarenti ~

~ Harvested Sangiovese in Chianti Colli Senesi.  San Gimignano in the background ~

~ Beautiful Sangiovese harvested in Chianti Colli Senesi:  Campochiarenti 2014 ~

Further South, in Umbria,  Tabarrini has began harvesting last week.  Winemaker Giampaolo Tabarrini likes complex and full flavors in his wines.  Last week, he harvested Trebbiano Spoletino for his white wine Adarmando and today (10/15) he began harvesting his Sangiovese that he uses for Montefalco Rosso.  His Sagrantino continues to hang and picking of those grapes will likely not occur for several weeks.  The harvest is turning out well, despite the difficult rains.  Yields are down, but as many other winemakers across Italy have told me,  what's left on the vines is in good shape.  Daniele Sassi, a manager at Tabarrini told me with a wry smile:  "although many producers in the area have begun harvesting, you know Giampaolo, he wants to wait! - and on our side of the Montefalco hill, the winds do more to dry the grapes and so we are afforded that benefit."  

~ The "glamorous" side of Vendemmia - G. Tabarrini moving crates of grapes with a forklift ~

In Chianti Classico,  Tolaini is reporting a successful harvest of Sangiovese, Cabernet and other red varietals - which is underway as we speak.   Winemaker Diego Bonato told me,  "Harvest is going great, we are having wonderful weather for end of September that is slowly bringing the grapes to the best maturity.  After a cool, grey July and a late spring, this last part of the summer has been ideal with cold nights, around 10°Celsius, and warm days, reaching 27°Celsius, to develop ripe flavors and polyphenols in the grapes. Of course, there is lots of time left. We need sun, and to keep our fingers crossed!"

~ Harvest underway at Tolaini.  Visible are the Rosetto Tractors designed & patented by PierLuigi Tolaini that allows vineyard workers to sit and steer the tractor with their knees, so that their hands remain free for harvesting.  See my earlier interview here:  Rosetto Tractor  ~

Innovation is not new at Tolaini, as the Rosetto Tractor proves.  However, this harvest, a new "toy' is being employed with reported great success.  Tolaini is using a "Pelenc Optical Selection Machine" which uses state of the art cameras and light technology to optically analyze each berry for the ideal color, size and form. Any berries that do not meet the criteria, or contain bits of stem or bugs,  are discarded by a burst of jet air, leaving only the optimal grapes to be made into wine. 

~ The Optical Scanner in action - 2014 ~

~ The Optical Scanners sit atop the selection belts & analyze each berry ~

~ Harvesting in Chianti Classico at Tolaini using the Patented Rosetto Tractor ~

North of Florence, the vineyards in Carmignano were mostly spared by the freak hailstorm that struck the city early last week.  Proprietor Silvia Vannucci of Piaggia told me that despite the challenges of the weather, they have harvested some of the best Cabernet Franc they've seen for their mono-varietal Super Tuscan Poggio dei Colle.   She uploaded photos of their harvest activity here:  Piaggia Sorting 2014 and here Piaggia Harvest 2014.
~ Perfectly Ripened Sangiovese Grapes awaiting harvest:  Chianti Classico 2014  ~

Other vineyards in Chianti Classico are also reporting reduced yields, as the Sangiovese continues to be harvested.  Michele Braganti of Monteraponi has several varietals in the winery already.  These grapes appear to be in excellent condition:  Monteraponi Harvest.  Braganti told me that although the harvest is looking "Classic" for Chianti Classico, there will be very little to no Riserva made, and none of his single vineyard Riserva, Baron Ugo.
Additionally, Casa Emma, in the northern portion of the Classico zone near Panzano sent along this picture of amazingly ripe Sangiovese that are being harvested as we speak.  

~ Sangiovese awaits picking at Casa Emma, Chianti Classico 2014 ~

In Montalcino, similar conditions persist.  Today, Laura Gray posted this picture aptly titled "Racing Against the Rain".  This was taken at Il Palazzone's Due Porte vineyard - the vineyard closest to their winery and also the one with the highest altitude.  These Sangiovese are ripening later and last week, Il Palazzone dropped a significant amount of ripening fruit in an attempt to direct 100% of the vines nutrients to the remaining grapes.  It's touch and go.   However, in the long sunny spell last week,  Il Palazzone - along with many other Brunello producers,  were able to harvest successfully at their lower altitude vineyards, where the ripening process was further along.  

Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci, of Il Poggione reported last week the winds had shifted and were coming directly from the North which is ideal for drying the clusters and preventing mold.  He had his fingers crossed for more sun and a salvaged harvest.   As the Patriarch of the Talenti winery is credited with saying: "There are no bad vintages.  It's just that in some years, we make less wine."   

Only time will tell!
Southern Italy

In Abruzzo, the harvest of Montepulciano has only begun at the iconic Emidio Pepe.  Isabella Pepe told me:  "Giovanni, the vintage is very late this year because of all the rain!  However, we are lucky that things are going well and tomorrow we will begin picking the Montepulciano.  The Trebbiano is already done."
~ Chiara Pepe, on the tractor with Grandfather Emidio, preparing to harvest Montepulciano ~

~ Crushing the grapes the traditional way at Emidio Pepe - Trebbiano 2014 in the vats!  ~
Stay tuned for more updates as they come in!



  1. The berry selector device is completely crazy! I didn't even know that such a thing existed...

  2. I didn't either Raph, but when I was speaking to them, they said the machine has been used in Bordeaux and also in limited use in Napa. But to their knowledge, Tolaini is the first in Tuscany to have such a machine. If it works well, you can bet other wineries will begin using it.